Racial Breakdowns of Selected Public Private Schools

One of the questions about the voucher program in Milwaukee is how it will affect racial integration in Milwaukee schools.

A number of voucher supporters have argued that the city’s private schools are more integrated than the public schools, while backers of public education have sharply disputed that claim.

The Department of Public Instruction does not col- lect data on the racial breakdown of private voucher students, so definitive statements about the racial com- position of Milwaukee voucher schools are impossible until such data is publicly collected.

Unofficially, self-reporting data from a number of private schools is available from the EPIC website. The site provides information on public and private schools, and is sponsored by a consortium led by the UW-Milwaukee Center for Urban Initiatives and Research and by Partners
Advancing Values in Education. The Milwaukee Archdiocese collects racial data, but only provides aggregate figures to the public. When Rethinking Schools asked individual Catholic schools for their racial breakdown, only two schools responded. (As a group, the Catholic schools form the backbone of the voucher schools in Milwaukee and are located throughout the city.) The racial composition of all Milwaukee Public Schools is released annually as part of an “Accountability Report.” Milwaukee Public Schools, which operate under a court-approved deseg- regation agreement, were 20% white, 61% African- American, 13% Hispanic, 4% Asian, 1% Native- American, and 1.5% “other” in 1997-98.

Rethinking Schools recently compiled figures from the above-mentioned sources. Here are the racial breakdowns at six Catholic elementary schools located throughout the city, all of which participate in the voucher program. They are followed in each case with the breakdown at four nearby Milwaukee Public Schools. The graphs below show the percentage of white students at the schools. (Similarly, the three most prestigious Catholic high schools have high enrollments of white students, according to the EPIC web site figures. Marquette University High Schools is 81% white and 5%
African American. Pius is 88% white and 3% African American. Divine Savior Holy Angels is 87% white and 3% African American.)

The figures are not meant to be a comprehensive attempt to analyze racial composition in Milwaukee schools. The figures, however, show that in a number of cases, private schools in Milwaukee disproportionately serve white students.